New research indicates that for patients with advanced skin cancer, it may be important to maintain normal vitamin D levels when receiving immunotherapy medications called immune checkpoint inhibitors. The findings were published in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.
Vitamin D has many effects on the body, including the regulation of the immune system. To see whether levels of vitamin D might impact the effectiveness of immune checkpoint inhibitors, investigators analysed the blood of 200 patients with advanced melanoma both before and every 12 weeks during immunotherapy treatment.
A favourable response rate to immune checkpoint inhibitors was observed in 56.0% of patients in the group with normal baseline vitamin D levels or normal levels obtained with vitamin D supplementation, compared with 36.2% in the group with low vitamin D levels without supplementation. Progression‐free survival – the time from treatment initiation until cancer progression – in these groups was 11.25 and 5.75 months, respectively.
“Of course, vitamin D is not itself an anti-cancer drug, but its normal serum level is needed for the proper functioning of the immune system, including the response that anti-cancer drugs like immune checkpoint inhibitors affect,” said lead author Łukasz Galus, MD, of Poznan University of Medical Sciences, in Poland. “In our opinion, after appropriately randomised confirmation of our results, the assessment of vitamin D levels and its supplementation could be considered in the management of melanoma.”